Cat’s Health

The health of the cat became an obligation at the time we, humans, chose to domesticate and share our lives with our beloved animal, we have a duty of care and understanding to keep our cat healthy.

In the wild, the cats’ natural instincts will help them to self-medicate and look after themselves. It will seek out safety and shelter in trees, find grasses to self-medicate, care for claws through shroping tree trunks, and hunt for food and exercise.

In our domestic environment, we can help our cats stay healthy through observation, optimum nutrition, which includes vegetables for cats, exercise and health care. 

Health of the Cat

In our domestic environment, we can help our cats stay healthy through observation, optimum nutrition, exercise and health care.  

Cat Anatomy

Cats can pass through any space in which they can fit their heads, the forelimbs being attached to the shoulder by free-floating clavicle bones.  The legendary flexibility of the cat is due to extra lumbar (lower back) and thoracic (chest) vertebrae.   

During the walk, cats move the two legs on one side of the body before the legs on the other side, in a pacing gait. Breaking into a trot, the diagonally opposite hind and forelegs move at the same time. There are five claws on the front paws, and four claws on the rear paws.  The sixth finger on the inside of the wrists is the carpal pad.    


Which worming treatments are best?

Broad-spectrum wormers are available from the vet and treatments should be administered every three months. Tablets can be given by tipping the cat head back and dropping the tablet as far down the throat as possible.  If the cat is particularly difficult to worm, the pills can be wrapped and disguised in a pill pocket, or cat stick.  


Are cat collars dangerous?

According to a 1970s survey by the RSPCA, approximately 20% of cats are injured or die by wearing flea collars.  Remove the collar when the cat goes outside, as it is more likely to entrap and choke the cat.  A number of cats suffer dermatitis in the neck area due to flea collars.  There is also a danger that the cat will trap the bottom of its mouth under the collar, forcing the neck bent, and causing a great deal of distress.  

To avoid your cat becoming lost if it strays, microchips are a far safer solution and last the duration of the cat’s life.  Animal shelters and vets will routinely check for a microchip when a cat is brought in. 


How do cat’s eyes work?

cat eyes

The cat skull has very large eye sockets.  The cat’s pupil contracts in bright light to filter out some of the light, and expands in the dark to let in light and help the cat to see.  The eyelids clean the eye of debris and keep the cornea moist.  Healthy eyes may occasionally need a wipe with damp cotton wool.  Persians may suffer from blocked tear ducks and need their eyes wiped daily.  

How to clean cats’ eyes?

  • dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a pint of lukewarm water, wet a cotton wool pad, and wipe gently over the eye.

If there is cloudy discharge or the cat keeps an eye closed, squints, or paws at it, consult a vet immediately.   The cat has a third eyelid, which can be seen in the corner of the eye.  If it becomes visible it is advisable to seek veterinary attention.  If the eye becomes dislocated, the vet must be seen in an emergency.  

Watering eyes may be a sign of illness.  It is wise to consult a vet, as long-term eye issues can damage the vision.  The vet can prescribe antibiotics, eye drops, or surgical interventions. 

Some causes are :

  • Respiratory infection 
  • Feline calicivirus 
  • Pneumonitis 
  • Rhinotracheitis 
  • Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye) 
  • Epiphora


Some cats do not require any ear care. Pedigree breeds may need their ears cleaned every few days.    

How to clean cat’s ears – moisten a cotton bud with vegetable oil, taking care not to push it into the ear canal.    

A cat that shakes its head, scratches and rubs its head against furniture, may have ear mites and needs veterinary attention.  If the cat’s ears smell, are reddened inside, sunburned or have waxy discharge, consult the vet.  

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Cats have a powerful, specialized jaw, and prey of small rodents has led to the adaptation of narrowly spaced canine teeth. Cats only have two sets of teeth in their lifetime.  By six to eight weeks a kitten will have 25 milk teeth.  Teething problems may occur around three to seven months when the permanent teeth come through, pushing out the first teeth.  These may drop out or be swallowed harmlessly.  

An adult cat has 30 teeth: 4 large canines which hold and kill prey, 12 incisors between the canines which are used for gnawing, and 14 back teeth (molars and premolars) which act like scissors, shearing meat into pieces.  

Cats’ teeth are designed to work hard, and cats fed entirely on soft food may suffer a build-up of tartar.  This can be controlled by feeding some dry food daily, and an occasional chunk of raw meat.    

How to clean cat teeth – all cats who permit it will benefit from having their teeth cleaned.  It prevents the build-up of tartar and keeps teeth healthier.  Before attempting to clean teeth, accustomise your cat to have your fingers in its mouth.  For several weeks, raise the lips using a finger and thumb.  Once the cat accepts this, run your finger along with its teeth.  Use a child’s soft toothbrush or a pet toothbrush from the vet.  A meat-flavoured toothpaste can be supplied by the vet, or use baking soda, salt and water, or the juice of a crushed garlic clove added to a cupful of water. Never use human toothpaste.  

Cat Claws  

Why does my cat claw the furniture?

cat claw

Cats claws are constantly renewing.  The need to shrop claws is instinctive and natural, and the cat should NEVER be reprimanded for scratching furniture.  The cat shrops and chews to remove the old worn-out claw sheath.  To protect furniture, a large cardboard box is ideal and the cat will enjoy sitting inside, scratching the base, and chewing the sides.  It is also possible to purchase rope scratching trees.   

Any claw sheaths found are no cause for concern.  Clipping claw tips can avoid the claws from overgrowing into sharp daggers, which can penetrate the soft paw pad and cause pain.  Claw clips can be every fortnight, and be aware when the paws start to stick to the furniture or carpet.  If the cat is very averse to the clippers, an emery board may be used.  The cat can be wrapped in a towel, and if necessary enlist the help of a second person for restraint.    

How to clip claw tips – hold the paw, and gently push the toe forward with the thumb.  The tiny white tip can be clipped.  The pink nail quick is very sensitive and will cause pain if penetrated.  If this area is accidentally cut, apply styptic powder, or otherwise flour, corn starch or even a dry bar of soap to stop the bleeding.  

The dewclaws are located on the inside of the front paws, and should also be clipped.  Very gently stretch the dewclaw away from the paw to access.  Always praise and treat the cat afterwards.  

Vets can also provide vinyl claw caps or beads that fit over the claw.    


Can I treat superficial cat wounds myself?

Simple cuts can be cleaned with saline solution.  Mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 1 pint of water.  Some antiseptics are toxic to cats and must be avoided.  Wounds that become abscessed require veterinary attention.  


Regular visits to the vet are crucial, keeping the cat alive for many extra years by catching sickness and disease early.  Prevention is better than cure, and it is very important to vaccinate young cats against some of the most deadly diseases.  If a cat gets a disease, a veterinarian can offer help.    

Cat Massage  

Physical Health of the Cat - Cat Massage

Any tips on cat massage?

Massaging the cat will help reduce stress, and relieve the effects of arthritis, cystitis and kidney problems  Avoid stroking the backbone or windpipe.  Stroke in the direction of the fur and never use oil.  

Begin with the cat on the lap, and stroke it until it relaxes. Using fingertips, gently massage along the sides in small circular movements. Start at the neck and work towards the tail.

Massage the back of the neck and stroke the front of the neck vertically.  Using downward movements, stroke the legs between the fingers, and gently massage between each paw pad.  Finish by gently stroking from top to toe.  

Healthy physical signs in the Cat

  • A vocal cat is a happy cat 
  • A healthy appearance, glossy coat  
  • A relaxed posture  
  • Clean eyes and ears  
  • Playful behaviour  
  • A good appetite  
  • Sleep  

Cats sleep for two-thirds of the day.  Once in deep REM sleep, the limbs may twitch or the cat chatter, according to the intensity of the dream.  In addition to warmth, the cat will appreciate somewhere high to sleep, as it will feel more secure and less vulnerable to attack.  

Cat Play  

Domestic cats may have little opportunity for exercise and may become lazy and overweight.  Just 10 or 15 minutes of play every day will keep the cat healthier, toning muscles and alleviating boredom.  Try to encourage the cat to let off steam by making toys, and avoid playtime within an hour of a meal.  Always throw toys in a direction away from the cat to encourage natural pursuit.    

Easy to make cat toys:

  • Empty plastic lemons, walnuts, pine cones, cotton reels. 
  • Twists of paper knotted with dangling string.  
  • Fishing rods created with a pole and cord. 
  • A folded newspaper left on the floor.  
  • Cotton reel strung on a door handle.  

Toys are particularly important when the owner is not at home to play with the cat. Alternate toys by shutting half away, and changing with toys left out, to avoid boredom. Cats have been known to teach themselves to use lever-type doorknobs, toilet handles, open cupboards and turn on taps.  

Dangerous toys

  • avoid loose string, cord, wool and thread
  • these can be very dangerous, catching on the barbs of the tongue, and can be swallowed.     
  • Kittens can push their heads into disposable cups, and become suffocated when unable to push them back off again.  The kitten has no way to grip the sides of the cup. 

Purring and Socialisation  

Why do Cats Purr?

cat purr

Cats purr to communicate emotions and needs.  When stroked they are feeling happy and calm in a relaxed environment.  Purring is associated with comforting situations, nursing, grooming, relaxing and socialisation.  Many cats also purr to self soothe in stressful situations.  It helps the cat to rest and repair in painful or distressing situations, ie. while birthing kittens.  

Adult cats knead when they are happy, this is a memory of kittenhood when they would knead the mother to stimulate the flow of milk.   A happy cat will hold its head and ears high.  As a greeting, the cat will hold its tail high and may stand on hind legs to reach you better.  Turning its rear towards you is also an extension of the greeting, and an invitation to sniff.   The cat will often mark you with its scent, rubbing the chin on legs and hands.   

How to pick your cat up?

Crouch on the ground, smile and talk soothingly to the cat.  Scratch gently around the head and ears, and never rush.  After a few minutes of stroking and soothing, place one hand beneath it, and one around the chest and slowly lift.  Never lift by the scruff of the neck as it can strain the neck muscles.  Lifting by the scruff is an absolute last resort, when the cat may be in danger.  In this case, place the other hand under the rear to avoid muscle strain.  

Cats will reach out to you with their paws when they want your attention.  They may want fussing, food, or a door to be opened.  If the cat touches your face, they may want to play and cuddle, wake you up or even mark their territory.  This can also be an assertive gesture to indicate they no longer want physical attention.  

Cats have an orchestra of sounds that they use to communicate, including meowing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling, squeaking, chirping, clicking and grunting.   

Body posture   

Body posture is important.  The body shape changes depending on whether the cat is relaxed, or alert.  The ears, tail and whiskers are used for communication.  These communication signals are important.  They are used between a mother and her kittens, as well as between males and females.    

A mother cat defending her kittens will fight off the largest dog.  She gives ample warning with a frightening display, hissing furiously, showing her claws, arching her back and making the hair stand on end.  Failing this, she will attack the dogs face with her claws.  No dog would be foolish enough to attempt such a challenge twice.   

Cats are at least as intelligent as dogs, but there is a limit to how far they can be trained.  They are highly independent.  NEVER hit a cat as this will damage the relationship irreparably.  The most extreme deterrent can be to hiss at the cat.    

A kitten born in the home should not be allowed outside until it is three months old.   At nine weeks the kitten can be microchipped, providing peace of mind if it should get lost.  When it does go out, it should be watched as it may get lost.  Once it has learned every inch of the house and garden and is sufficiently mature, it can be allowed to roam.  

Introducing Other Pets to the Cat Household  

Is it possible to introduce a new cat without any hostility?

Introduce a cat

At first, the newcomer should be placed in its own room, to acclimatise to the new environment and establish its own safe sanctuary.  After one day it can be allowed out to investigate its new home without any other animals present. This will allow the new cat to become acquainted with smells and hiding places. The door of the original ‘safe’ room should be left open, lest the cat feels the need to dash back to safety. The new cat can then be put back in its own room, while the existing cats become familiar with the new scent in their territory.    

The following day allows the cats to exchange nose sniffs between a slightly ajar door.  Once they have lost interest, allow the new cat out into the main area, with only the most docile existing cat present.  Introduce the existing cats slowly one by one, so the new cat doesn’t feel intimidated.  Always allow some time before finally introducing the most dominant cat.  Do not cause jealousy or resentment by making a fuss about the new cat.  It is better to stay present but neutral.  

Once the cat is installed in its new surroundings, provide a sleeping place as high as possible, where it will feel more secure.     

They Need Your Help!

Owning cats is great and good fun and we would love you to have your own cats too.

Fostering cats is a wonderful alternative until they are ready for their furever home.

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